Shelf-improvement: the 6 best self-help books for boosting your career

Ayesha Muttucumaru 7 October 2015
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The 6 best career self-help books

Stuck in a work rut? Whether you’re looking for a career change  or for guidance on how to become more confident both in and out of the office, today’s legion of self-help books  are more than just empty words - they inspire, motivate and encourage by providing practical tools and techniques for seeing your job (and yourself) in a whole new light.

Here at GTG HQ, we’ve called our first jobseekers Book Club to order to provide you with our edit of the best career-boosting tomes around. From confidence experts to successful businesswomen, each is a page-turner in its own right, deserving a place upon anyone’s bookshelf when it comes to improving self-esteem and self-worth and putting self-doubt gremlins firmly to bed. Here’s our pick of what should be on your must-read list this year...

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Playing Big by Tara Mohr

Judy says: “So many women are crippled with self-doubt, and that's where Tara Mohr's book comes in. Her practical, encouraging advice is for those women who are, actually, brilliant; they just don't necessarily know it, or at least know how to share it.

“Mohr's frustration with women ‘playing small’ fuels her guidance to help them to ‘play big’; to be more confident, more self-assured, less afraid and better at communicating. Within the book she combats your inner critic, changes the way you look at fear, helps you to understand that a lack of praise does not in any way equal failure; she's the positive mentor on your shoulder, motivating you to see what you're capable of. She breaks you free from ‘this before that’ mentality (essentially, procrastinating and coming up with a list of must-dos before you do the thing you really want to be doing) and addresses your self-doubting communication skills. If you, like me, are one of those women who starts almost every sentence or email with an apology; who says ‘just’ all the time; who asks a question rather than making a statement - this is the book you need to read in order to change. Because why should you apologise? You're brilliant. And Tara Mohr knows it.”

£16.99.  Buy online .

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Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

India says: “If the idea of a self-help book full of platitudes and ‘positive affirmations’ leaves you squirming, then this is the career book you won’t hate. Part autobiography, part call-to-action, Sheryl Sandberg details her astronomical rise to the top corner offices of global organisations and shares what she’s learnt about women in the workplace along the way.

“Developed from her pivotal TED Talk, Sandberg backs up her instinctive learnings with insightful and informative case studies. It’s not the most exhaustive study of the social, cultural and economic causes of inequality in the workplace globally, but then it never pretended to be (despite the initial feminist furore when it was first published).

“I’m no Google CEO (yet, at least) but I found her advice for women dealing with imposter syndrome really resonated, along with her rallying cry for women to ‘come to the table.’ Her view of career progression as something more akin to clambering around a ‘jungle gym’ rather than scrambling up a ladder is a metaphor I return to time and again as I struggle to navigate the obstacle course that is graduate life.”

£16.99.  Buy online .

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Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K Rowling

Ayesha says: “The most inspiring of books needn’t be longest and this read proves that point emphatically. At just 80 pages long, the best-selling author’s recollection of key moments in her life (the ups, downs, successes and disappointments) are certain to resonate with anyone feeling de-motivated or down-beat following major setbacks.

“Taken from her commencement speech at Harvard University, Rowling describes her own personal experiences of failure during her postgraduate years - her account from rags to riches being far from the fairy tale story depicted by the press. Honest, poignant and certain to strike a chord with anyone who has felt as if they are just not good enough at some point at another, it’s far from just your average self-help book: for me, it was like a light bulb being turned on. From Rowling’s testimony, failure and imagination are two aspects of the life experience that are essential for our growth both personally and professionally; and are more often than not, overlooked. Highlighting her time spent working for Amnesty International, her point is further amplified by a dose of thought-provoking perspective to highlight the importance of using our experiences to benefit both ourselves and the wider world. This is where this book comes into its own, providing valuable advice for anyone at any age and any life stage.

£9.99.  Buy online .

Sales of Very Good Lives will benefit Lumos, a charity organisation founded by J.K. Rowling, which works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children, and university-wide financial aid at Harvard University.

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The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

Susannah says: “Are you working yourself to the bone and feel like you're treading water or not really progressing in what you do? Do you feel unmotivated by your job and feel like you put way too much work in and get not a lot of positivity out? Well, read this book and it could change your life.

“‘Life doesn't have to be so damn hard. It really doesn't,’ says Ferriss in the opening chapter, ‘Most people have spent too much time convincing themselves that life has to be hard in exchange for the occasional keep-it-short-or-get fired vacation.’ Ferriss himself speaks from experience having gone from earning $40,000 per year and working an 80 hour week to $40,000 a month and 4 hours a week. In this book Ferriss, (who now lectures all over the world on the subject) will teach you with humour how to outsource the drudgery parts of your life, eliminate 50% of your workload, earn way more with less effort and spend more time doing what you love. Sound too good to be true? Read it and find out - and if you don't think you have time to read the whole thing, just open it at any page - it's the sort of book that has something helpful at every turn.”

£12.99.  Buy online .

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Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life by Arianna Huffington

Anna says: “In case you think that Thrive sounds more akin to one of the latest crop of wholesome, health giving cookbooks doing the rounds of late, it might be helpful to state the book's sub-title to clarify the matters at hand: ‘The third metric to redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom and wonder.’

“In short, she thinks that many of us in the modern age are in a state of imbalance, like a stool with only two legs, and she wants to encourage us to grow a third. The question of balance is particularly pertinent for Arianna personally, given that the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post formerly juggled family life, a punishing work schedule and entrepreneurship to the detriment of life essentials such as exercise and sleep to the point of literal collapse (she passed out from exhaustion, breaking her cheekbone). It's somewhat ironic that falling unconscious was the wake-up call that Ms Huffington so desperately needed, and she set about changing her lifestyle, attitude to work and addiction to technology.

“It's certainly inspiring stuff, and despite Arianna's global success and high flying status, it's relatable. Arianna's suggestions for breaking away from workaholic culture are practical and supported by research: be mindful and focus on what you're doing when you're doing it, eat well, connect with those around you in person, try volunteering or a meaningful activity that isn't your job (don't be defined by that either) and of course, rest. Basically, you're rethinking your priorities, and once you make a few changes, you'll likely realise that a reassessment has been long overdue.”

£8.99.  Buy online .

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The Confidence Factor: The Seven Secrets of Successful People by Annie Ashdown

Ayesha says: “More than just words on paper, this insightful book provides readers with the tools they need to battle low self-esteem and boost self-confidence.

“Written by confidence expert Annie Ashdown, it serves a valuable purpose both inside and outside of the workplace. The sections on confidence vs arrogance and the need to let go of the need for approval from others are particularly insightful - common pitfalls that I’m sure we’re all guilty of stumbling into from time to time. Being ‘too busy’ is a common theme that runs throughout the book, identified as one of the major culprits responsible for preventing us from focusing on the really important things in life. Annie drives home the point that it isn’t about finding time, but making time - truly appreciating it as a precious commodity prized in the same way that we value money. With practical and useful advice on dealing with being bullied, coping with difficult people and other scenarios guilty of undermining our self-worth, with its emphasis on truly investing the time and effort to improve your self-confidence, this book could definitely help you find that extra dose of inner strength that you didn’t think you had.”

£12.99.  Buy online.